By September 3, 2008 5 Comments Read More →

Those Drunken, Vomiting Writers Were So Adorable

I filed this away some time ago and never got back to it, but it’s too good a conversation starter to trash. In the New York Post (“Writers on the Rocks“), the memorably named Justin Rocket Silverman (I’ll bet you can anagram the hell out of that), asks, “So has the literary lush all but dried out?” [Strike “So” and “all but”–Ed.]

For answers, he asks a bunch of people that I don’t really want answering the question, with the exception of Ernest Hemingway’s grandson, Edward (Bartending Guide to Great American Writers, 2006). I mean, if you’re going to ask writers about drinking, don’t ask writers whose favorite drinks are the Ginger Provincial, the Margarella, the Key Lime Martini, and the Dakota Grand. These people obviously know nothing about drinking.

I could be wrong, but I think if you asked a bunch of Chicago writers about their favorite drinks, you’d get answers that didn’t require recipes and anecdotes to explain them. Anyway, I’ve excerpted a few hypotheses.

Cecily von Ziegesar (that’s either the author of the Gossip Girl series or the name of a cocktail):

People are freer now to just speak up whenever they want. Those other writers in the past came from a much more buttoned-up society. The mask people wore then was much thicker. In order to access their true self and drop the mask, they had to get drunk.

Douglas Rushkoff (author of Coercion, the Margarella drinker, who also says that “Real writers don’t drink cocktails,” thereby reviewing his own oeuvre):

Writing has been divorced from some of its essential chemicals. Writers these days can have fairly normal marriages, with kids. And that doesn’t really mix with drinking at 11 a.m. A lot of writers are also on antidepressants now, which doesn’t make writing better. Prozac cures the need to write. You’re also not supposed to drink on Prozac.

Janice Erlbaum (who wrote Have You Found Her, and who apparently has no worries when it comes to dry-cleaning or hospital bills):

In the past, it was sort of adorable and charming if you got drunk or threw up on somebody, or were insulting and had it come to fisticuffs. That was all part of the mystique. But now that stuff is no good. You have to be a businessperson as a writer.

Kenji Jasper (author of Dakota Grand, also the Dakota Grand drinker; his college nickname was “Dakota Grand”):

In today’s publishing business, you have far more writers but far fewer characters. Corporate control has filtered into every art form . . . Yes, there will always be room for the drunken fools’ writing, but no longer for the drunken fools themselves.

Michael Malice (who is either a real person or a cartoon character; either way, he gets no argument from me):

Nowadays, writers are a lot dorkier.

(Malice also wins Best T-Shirt Philosopher with “I’m not a mean drunk, I’m a mean person who gets drunk.”)

Read the article and let me know what you think. Do writers drink as much as they used to? If not, why not? Do real writers drink Key Lime Martinis? Or do they simply drink anything they can get their hands on?



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

5 Comments on "Those Drunken, Vomiting Writers Were So Adorable"

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  1. Nowadays, writers are a lot dorkier | September 10, 2008
  1.' Meta Smith says:

    This literary lush (and Chicago girl) is far from dry! I think a lot of writers are taking themselves way too seriously and taking the fun out of being a writer if they don’t have a nip or two!

    There is truth to the fact that being published (and I am) means you’ve got to be a business person which to me seems like more of a reason to drink, not less. LOL. Corporate America is nervewracking. AND I’m a mom (another reason why I drink) so I don’t exactly get drunk at 11 am but I could since my son is at school then. I’d just have to be sober by 2 which is no fun. Oh and did I mention I’m living with my mother. If I didn’t drink I’d be totally insane.

    My choice cocktails start with beer. I’m a Midwesterner! Imports are preferred but if I’m waiting on a royalty check domestics will be happily imbibed. Miller High Life is after all “The Champagne of Beers”.

    Next at bat has to be Jack Daniels: Black Label, straight, no chaser, and if I’m feeling ladylike, a couple cubes of ice.

    Last on the list is wine. Screw off, fancy cork, it makes me no nevermind, just fill my glass all the way up please.

    Viva La Literary Lush!

  2.' Elizabeth Evans says:

    I’m on “mood regulators” so when i try to study I CAN’T have a soothing glass of wine or more than 1 beer. I’m doing something fundamentally backwards, i think

  3.' Alison says:

    Slow day at the NYP…

    I’m sure there are plenty of drunk writers out there, getting into all sorts of trouble (I know I’ve met a few). A better question would be to ask why we don’t hear about it. Is it because their antics are not considered newsworthy by the media, who prefer to show us the latest reality TV star (generally more photogenic, let’s face it), or is it because today’s writers go out of their way to keep their private lives private?

    In terms of fame, who would you consider to be today’s equivalent of Hemingway, say? JK Rowling? Stephenie Meyer? Neither really fits the bill of having a public, “showbiz” life and of course they have the additional burden of writing for a younger audience – public misbehaviour is definitely out of the question.

    If it should be true that there is less drinking in the overall writing profession, would that not be a simple reflection of the overall decline in drinking in Western society? Even investment bankers now routinely go back to their desks in the afternoon to do work instead of just sleeping off their boozy business lunches.

    And for the avoidance of doubt, rum + OJ is not a “Dakota Grand” it’s a rum screwdriver.

  4. Keir says:

    I think you’re dead on, Alison–we don’t really know if writers booze it up the way they used to because writers aren’t the celebrities they once were.

    And, yes, everyone drinks less than they used to–except reality show contestants and 25-year-old pop stars.

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